Making Waves

Repost From: SFGATE

By Andrews Ross June 15, 2011

One doesn’t normally think of Mongolia when one looks at Asia’s fast growing economies and the opportunities they offer to Bay Area businesses.

But Mongolia is thinking about the Bay Area.

The land of Genghis Khan opened its first official U.S. consulate on Tuesday in San Francisco and isn’t here just to help out the local Mongolian population (approximately 3,000, mostly in the East Bay), or to help with various cultural exchanges.

“We’re interested in business partnerships,” saidBegzjav Dulamsuren, CFO of MobiCom, the country’s largest mobile phone operator, who was part of a 30-member trade and investment delegation visiting the Bay Area on Tuesday in conjunction with the consulate opening.

High tech is one area that the delegation discussed, with folks at Google on Tuesday afternoon. Sustainable development and green building is another the delegation raised at a morning meeting at the offices of Heller Manus. The San Francisco architecture firm is working on several projects in China, including one in Inner Mongolia.

Early adopters: By my count, in a handout from the government’s Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade agency, Mongolia is looking for about $15 billion in foreign investment, primarily in resource extraction – the country has huge amounts of coal, plus copper, iron ore, uranium and other raw materials – but also in agriculture, infrastructure, including water and communications, information technology and tourist development.

San Francisco’s Bechtel Corp. has already nabbed the master plan contract for an industrial complex 200 miles east of the capital, Ulan Bator, which will contain an oil refinery, a coal gasification plant and other processing facilities. Figure Bechtel will get a major piece of its construction also.

Greenoaks Capital Management, a private equity firm headquartered in Redwood Shores, has already invested in the country’s coal mines and is looking at opportunities in home building and real estate there, said managing partner Nitin Mehta.

With a population of just 2.8 million and a small, if growing, gross domestic product, Mongolia doesn’t have the same draw as some of the giant neighbors surrounding the landlocked country. But it does have enormous resources, money to spend and ambition.

Asked at an Asia Foundation dinner in San Francisco on Monday night why Mongolia chose to open a consulate here, its president, Tsakhia Elbegdorj, said, “Well, it’s the gateway to Asia.”

Making waves: Now, we’re not even hinting at the possibility of dual loyalties here when we note thatChinaSF, the public-private agency that recruits Chinese companies to open branches locally, has been actively involved in China Team’s entry in the 2013 America’s Cup.

It’s not entirely surprising, given the immense interest Chinese businesses have expressed in a home country team seriously competing for yachting’s most watched competition and greatest prize.

“In China we are on the top of the biggest marketing wave in the world,” said China Team CEO Thierry Barot in an America’s Cup blog post.

“When you see what China did with the Olympics it gives you an idea as to how the country will support us,” said Barot, adding that “the Team’s been heartily welcomed by China SF.” (

“We’ve not only supported the China team, but, with many of the Chinese companies ChinaSF works with, have actively promoted the race,” said ChinaSF executive director Ginny Fang, who was present at China’s official entry in Beijing in March.

Fang said ChinaSF has also been a “local conduit” for the team, hooking it up with local resources and posting job descriptions for local hires.

One of the things Barot said he is looking for is “more talent.”

“We are looking for North American sailors of Chinese origin and the West Coast of the U.S. has the biggest Chinese community outside of China, so it’s a great place for us to recruit from.”

Team members are set to appear with Mayor Ed Leeat a welcoming press conference today at the Ferry Building, and Thursday evening at a cocktail reception thrown by ChinaSF at the Chinese Historical Society of America. (

We don’t know if Larry Ellison will be present at either event. We doubt it.

Business development: Fang and other members of ChinaSF returned last week from their latest business trip to China, having met with government officials and executives of companies looking to expand here.

The companies included People’s Insurance Company of China, the country’s largest insurance provider; the Bank of Communications, its fifth largest bank; Founders Group, a high-tech and pharmaceuticals company; and a restaurant chain.

ChinaSF also signed a “memorandum of understanding” to explore a partnership between San Francisco and a “sustainable design district” in the city of Wuxi, which is becoming a center of alternative energy development.

No deals were announced, but an interesting one, I’m told, is in the offing.